One in five people in the UK has a disability. And of those people, 80% have a hidden disability. This means that it might not be obvious to look at them that they need extra support, and this can make their struggle even harder.
We are taught from a young age to look out for people who need additional support. But without a guide dog, wheelchair or cane, it can be difficult for those around you to offer help. It’s also easy for strangers to jump to conclusions if they don’t understand a situation.
If your disability is not immediately obvious to people around you, it can make something as simple as getting on a bus or going to the shops very difficult.
Perhaps you cannot stand for a long time, you struggle with everyday tasks, or you just need a little more time to complete tasks. There is no recognised list of hidden disabilities, it is down to the individual to decide if they are living with a hidden disability.
It is generally accepted that someone with a hidden disability:
The sunflower lanyard scheme is a simple initiative designed to help make these hidden disabilities more visible. It’s very easy for outsiders to make judgements when they do not know the full situation. The sunflower lanyard is a bright and easy way to let people know that you have a hidden disability.
The green lanyards contain bright yellow sunflowers. They can be easily slipped on over anything you are wearing. They can also be customised with cards to let people know if there is anything specific they need to know. For example, you could wear a card to let people know if you are non-verbal, have hearing loss, or are exempt from wearing face coverings. This could help to avoid difficult interactions out in public.
By wearing a sunflower lanyard, you can let people know that you have additional needs. In retail settings, this might mean that staff offer their help and support when you arrive. On public transport, it’s a great way to let people know if you need a priority seat or a little more support boarding and disembarking.
There are hundreds of shops, restaurants and organisations up and down the country that recognise the scheme. As more people learn about this scheme, it will become more universally recognised. You can find a list of participating companies here.
By participating in the scheme, a company acknowledges that they will train their staff on how to approach those with a lanyard. It can also serve as a helpful reminder to public transport staff to check if you will need help getting around.
There are plenty of online and physical retailers offering the sunflower lanyard. You can purchase lanyards online and then customise them with a card unique to your circumstances.
The sunflower lanyards are available with different safety features, such as a safety breakaway. This can offer some peace of mind if you’re concerned about the lanyard getting caught or fainting in public. When pulled, the lanyard will safely break away, ensuring you aren’t hurt.
If your invisible disability means that you are exempt from wearing a face mask, then you may wish to have two cards on your lanyard to make this clear. It would make sense to purchase a few lanyards so that you’ll always have one to hand.